ldac: Explained: What is LDAC and how can it affect wireless audio quality

LDAC is Sony’s proprietary wireless audio codec that is also developed by the Japanese tech giant. Users, who have bought a pair of wireless Sony headphones in the last few years, might have noticed that they claim to support LDAC. Here we will discuss what is LDAC, how it works and how can it affect the quality of wireless audio.
What is LDAC?
As mentioned earlier, LDAC is a wireless audio codec developed by Sony. This audio codec is different from older Bluetooth streaming technologies. This codec uses a combination of lossless (when possible) and lossy compression to deliver audio in high resolution.
How does it work?
Bitrate is the term that is used to describe the amount of data that is being transferred into audio. A higher bitrate usually offers better audio quality. If you want to download or listen to music in physical audio formats, you can afford a high bitrate. On the other hand, if you’re streaming music, you would want the bitrate to be lower for effective streaming.
LDAC uses different bitrates compared to older wireless audio technologies. This codec either uses bitrates of 330/660/990kbps at sample rates of 96 and 48kHz or 303/606/909kbps at sample rates of 88.2 and 44.1kHz. These bitrates are higher than the ones found in older wireless audio technologies. For instance, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s SBC uses bitrates of 345kbps at 48kHz whereas, Qualcomm’s aptX uses bitrates of 384kbps at 48kHz.
How does it affect wireless audio quality?
Sony promotes the technology as a truly wireless, high-resolution audio solution. In reality, only the higher bitrate of 990kbps qualifies the codec’s claims. SoundGuys conducted an in-depth study of the technology and concluded that LDAC is not much of a success when it comes to 24-bit/96kHz studio-quality recordings.
Other available high-resolution audio solutions
Other companies are also trying to make high-resolution audio available to the world of wireless earbuds. In 2016, Qualcomm introduced aptX HD, also known as aptX Lossless, to offer higher bitrate streaming of 576kbps on Bluetooth headphones that are compatible with the technology.
Can LDAC be used by other brands?
Sony has developed the technology and continues to integrate LDAC into its products. However, the LDAC encoder is open-source that allows manufacturers to include the technology in non-Sony products. Since Android 8.0 “Oreo”, which was released in 2017, LDAC has been a part of the Android Open Source Project.
It enables every OEM to freely integrate this standard into their own Android devices. If you are using an Android device that runs Oreo or above, you will be able to use LDAC with compatible wireless audio products.
However, this audio codec is mostly found in Sony products which include — wireless earbuds and headphones among others. Other brands like Anker Life has also adopted LDAC support in some of their headphones and users can use the technology for listening to music on some gaming headsets as well.
Users can also use LDAC in some select wireless speakers, home theatre setups, soundbars, dedicated portable audio players in the Walkman range, Bluetooth headphone amplifiers and even car receivers.
Currently, none of the Apple products supports LDAC and users aren’t able to use higher bitrates that the codec supports with an iPhone, iPad or AirPods.